All week leading up to Sunday’s Banque Scotia 21k de Montreal Matt Loiselle has kept an eye on the weather forecast hoping that the wind is kind to the runners racing around Parc Jean Drapeau.
A year ago the winds gusted upwards of 50 kilometres an hour and, despite pushing the early pace, he wound up second to Canadian Olympian Reid Coolsaet in a time that belies his true ability.
In 2010 he won the event in 1:05:07 and was thus crowned Canadian Half Marathon Champion — a title of which he is clearly proud.
“It can be windy,” the 27 year old native of Windsor, Ontario confirms. “The course is very flat and, if the weather is good, it sets things up for a very fast race. I have run it three times and two of those years it’s been cold and windy and wet – especially last year the wind gusts were 50km/hr. It all depends on the weather whether it’s a fast race or not.”
Earlier in the year Loiselle, who now calls Toronto his home, was injured which ended his plan to chase the Olympic qualifying standard at the Rotterdam Marathon. Now his aim is to win Sunday’s race and win another Canadian title.
“Training has been going pretty well I guess,” he says. “It’s been a little more geared towards shorter 10k stuff. I was originally going to do Rotterdam but I had a little injury in January. So there was no way I was going to put together a good marathon. I am concentrating on shorter distances now. It’s a nice change of pace. I hope I am ready for a good half this weekend.”
Loiselle’s best time over the half marathon distance is 1:03:47 which earned him second place in the 2011 Vancouver Half Marathon, 20 seconds behind Kenya’s Kip Kangogo. In that race he pushed the pace hard throughout and left experienced runners such as 2012 Canadian Olympic marathoner Dylan Wykes behind. In Montreal he will take into account the weather but also one competitor in particular, Eric Gillis, who must be considered a heavy favourite.
Gillis represented Canada in the Beijing Olympic 10,000m four years ago and is one of the three Canadians named to the London Olympic marathon contingent. The pair raced at the Vancouver Sun Run on April 15th. On that day Loiselle finished 3rd in a time of 29:17.8 a personal best. Gillis, who had just come down to sea level from high altitude training camp, wound up 4th.
“He is such an experienced racer,” Loiselle says of his rival. “I don’t know if my knowledge of the Montreal course gives me an advantage or not. I am expecting a really good race from him. He didn’t have his best race at the Sun Run and I realize that. I am expecting him to have a very, very good race this Sunday and I will try to race him.
“Any time you race for a Canadian Championships you want to win and do the best you can, especially when there is really good competition like Eric and Rejean (Chiasson) and other guys too. It’s always good to call yourself a Canadian champion.”
Asked how he expects the race to unfold Loiselle wisely hedges his bets.
“I don’t know if Eric likes to race at the front that much,” he reveals. “It all depends on the race and the weather. I am not really the type of guy who likes to sit behind someone either. If there are 60 k winds no one is going to want to lead the whole way. If it’s a calm day and, we want to run a fast time, I think there will be some sharing of the lead. I will get a few scenarios in my head and see what the weather’s like and go from there.”
The Banque Scotia 21k de Montreal, in addition to being the Canadian Half Marathon Championship, is part of the prestigious Canada Running Series. Loiselle, more than most, is a product of this annual racing series.
“The Canada Running Series has helped me tremendously,” he declares. “Even four years ago, when I moved up to Toronto, I met people like Alan (Brookes, Director) and he let me into some races when I didn’t really have any good times yet. He has been great; flying us out to Vancouver, getting us a train up to Montreal. He really looks after us. The prize money helps too. They always take care of us, everyone on his staff. When I am done running competitively they have a volunteer for life in me.”
If he can pull off an upset Loiselle will be delighted. One thing is certain, Eric Gillis will be wary of his opponent. Now, if that wind will only co-operate!!
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